This year has been far more difficult for the 1-5 Warriors and is about to get even harder as they take on Cartersville tonight in Calhoun.
“I think they graduated a lot of good players. They had really good classes in [2012 and 2013]. I think they are rebuilding in a sense, but they still have a lot of those players who have been to the playoffs in two years,” Cartersville head coach Frank Barden said. “Last year, they were a good football team. They were one of the top four in the region, so we just have to be ready for a team like that and hope we come out well early. You expect a tough battle up there at their place and playing on the road.”
Cartersville has come into the 2013 season like a wrecking ball and has beaten opponents by an average of more than 42 points per game. The Canes have won 16 consecutive regular season games and are coming off a 76-13 win over Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, the most points Cartersville has scored since 1929.
Sill, Barden wants to make sure his team does not overlook Gordon Central.
“After an open week, they’re probably going to get a lot of kids who they have had hurt back,” he said. “Anybody, after an open week, is going to come back and be better, regardless of what anybody thinks or says.”
Gordon Central’s strength is its team speed, which is also a strength for the Canes.
“Everybody knows they have good athletes,” Barden said. “I think it’s a good matchup. Last year it was a good matchup. They were up on us last year and we ended up coming back. We have to make sure our kids are ready and our kids are prepared Monday through Thursday.”
Like Gordon Central and the rest of the Region 5-AAA teams, Cartersville is coming off its bye week. The time off came at an opportune point in the season for Cartersville as the team is dealing with several injuries.
“We have had some injuries so we have some guys who could get some rest,” Barden said of the bye week. “It came at a good time. It came at a time to give our kids a break off their legs a little bit and it gives us a chance to look at ourselves. Still, were battling injuries.”
The most notable and severe injures to the Canes are to starting senior running back Brandon Long and to starting junior linebacker Jahir Camps. Long is out for the year with a knee injury that will require surgery and Camps also will have season-ending surgery on his shoulder.
Long is the team’s leading rusher with 347 yards. He has carried the ball 38 carries for a better than nine-yard average per run. He also had six touchdowns on the season even before getting injured on the second play of Cartersville’s fifth game of the season against Coahulla Creek. Meanwhile, Camps was one of the leading tacklers on the defense.
The injuries place an even higher importance on playing well and having players step up to fill the voids.
“That’s a starting linebacker and starting running back and put those on top of the injuries we already have,” Barden said. “We’re just going to have to keep playing and take them one week at a time. That’s why this game is important for us. We have to fight through it and have people fill in.”
Junior Trevor Carlton and senior Malik Wilkins, along with others, will fill in for Camps on defense.
“Camps, who we’ve just been trying to put a Band-Aid on the entire year, he has a shoulder that’s been popping out,” Barden said. “We may have to [fill the linebacker position] by committee. We have good kids. There are kids who will be ready to step in, who will play hard, and be ready to play each Friday night.”
Junior Kalin Heath and sophomore Tiamon Pennymon will continue to fill in for Long at the running back position.
“We’re fighting the injuries so were trying to stay healthy. We wanted to cut practice time a bit just to give our kids a little time off their legs,” Barden said. “The bottom line is everybody has to get better each week because you never know when you’re going to have to step in.”